REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
August 25, 2020
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26
Though these very direct words of Jesus may have the appearance of being harsh, they are truly words of mercy. They are words of mercy because Jesus is going to great lengths to help the Pharisees understand that they need to repent and cleanse their hearts. Though the initial message “Woe to you” may jump out at us, the real message we should hear is “cleanse first the inside.”
What this passage reveals is that it’s possible to be in one of two conditions. First, it’s possible that one’s interior is filled with “plunder and self-indulgence” while at the same time the exterior gives the appearance of being clean and holy. This was the problem of the Pharisees. They were very concerned with how they looked on the outside but gave little care to the interior. This is a problem.
Second, Jesus’ words reveal that the ideal is to start with an interior cleansing. Once that happens, the effect will be that the exterior is also cleansed and radiant. Think about the person in this second condition, the one who is first cleansed interiorly. This person is an inspiration and a beautiful soul. And what is beautiful is that when one’s heart is authentically cleansed and purified, this interior beauty cannot be contained inside. It must shine forth and others will notice.
God calls us to wholehearted worship centered on his loving heart. Putting “first things first” is more than simply a principle for organizing our homes or our schedules: It is wisdom through which God takes his rightful place at the center of our lives. As Christians, we must not lose sight of the important things: right judgment, mercy, and fidelity to God. Let us work to eliminate what competes with God for the primary place in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Just as Jesus admonishes the scribes and Pharisees for attending to less important parts of the law and ignoring judgment and mercy and fidelity, so we are being admonish today.
Reflect, today, upon how easily the beauty of your interior life shines forth. Do others see this? Does your heart shine forth? Are you radiant? If not, perhaps you, too, need to hear these words Jesus spoke to the Pharisees. You may also need to be chastised out of love and mercy so that you will be motivated to allow Jesus to enter in and act in a powerfully cleansing way.
Lord, please do come into my heart and cleanse me thoroughly. Purify me and allow that purity and holiness to shine forth exteriorly in a radiant way. Jesus, I trust in You.